Inspiring editorial from MIX Magazine


For thousands of years people have been using minerals to produce pigments and paints. Here we return to the origins of colour, exploring why natural pigments, their properties, applications and benefits are increasingly relevant today.



The story of pigment is rooted in nature. Traditionally extracted from rocks, soils and clays, the rich and warming colours produced speak volumes about the terrain from where they originate. Soft, earthy hues made from ochre, sienna and umber are responsible for most of what we today identify as reds, golds and yellows, creams and browns.



Cooler shades of blue, turquoise, violet and green are derived from crystallised mineral elements such as ultramarine (traditionally known as lapis lazuli) and spinel, which are combined and then heated to extract the colour.



There is a sometimes ephemeral and unquantifiable element to these colours that is part of their appeal but also part of the reason why these natural pigments were abandoned in favour of more reliable synthetic formulations. Today most pigments used in the paint and coatings industries are sophisticated and stable chemical representations of these ancient recipes.



The introduction of petrochemicals revolutionised and industrialised what was before essentially a cottage industry where colours directly referenced their surroundings. These factory-made pigments and paints could be produced at cheaper cost, had improved intensity and longevity and were always the same, with no more batch variations to worry about.



But as ever, there were disadvantages with these synthetic paints. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are not only bad for the environment but have also been associated with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Suddenly a reappraisal of natural pigments seemed like a smart move.



Natural pigments by their very nature are a niche product. However, with an increasing interest in all things bespoke that celebrate difference rather over conformity, there is now a growing number of small independent companies offering paint products that are natural. The products replace petrochemicals with natural alternatives such as water, plant dyes, essential oils, natural latex and beeswax.



These paints are natural by name and natural by nature. With a distinctive chalkiness, paints using natural pigments and ingredients also take up colour differently, meaning that the same colour may change from batch to batch and in different environments, appearing more organic and with an appealing raw aesthetic. Natural pigments have been gaining traction and are in sync with the growth of interest in craft, localism and ‘slow’ culture.



MIX Magazine is a quarterly print and digital publication by our creative agency, Colour Hive and is available as part of Colour Hive membership.

Duha Group is a global, industry leading manufacturer of innovative colour marketing tools. We specialise in colour matching, colour mass reproduction and colour system management.

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